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Cape Meares Lighthouse Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

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Cape Meares Lighthouse (bobcat)
Cliffs north of Cape Meares (bobcat)
Pillar and Pyramid Rocks, Cape Meares (bobcat)
Octopus Tree, Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint (bobcat)
The short hike to the lighthouse and past the Octopus Tree on the Oregon Coast Trail (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo/MapBuilder Topo
  • Start point: Cape Meares Light TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Octopus Tree
  • Hike Type: Out and Back
  • Distance: 1.7 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 305 feet
  • High point: 450 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: All
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes


Hike Description

John Meares was a British explorer and merchant of some controversy who plied the North Pacific in the second half of the 18th century. The promontory honoring his name is part state park and part wildlife refuge although the short excursion described here is almost all on state parks land. On this hike, you'll first visit the Cape Meares Lighthouse; get vistas of offshore rocks, including the massive Three Arch Rocks, bustling with sealions and seabirds; and marvel at the candelabra shape of the Octopus Tree.

On the right side of the parking area there’s a viewing deck that looks across to cliffs that host nesting guillemots and a pair of peregrine falcons in season. You can also try to spot a bald eagle nest in the spruce forest. Puffins and cormorants also nest here from April to June, and the largest colony of nesting common murres uses the rocks offshore, including Pyramid and Pillar rocks. From the viewpoint, a paved trail heads down a slope through Sitka spruce and salal. There are two more viewpoints that look north to the cliffs and the sea stacks. The path switchbacks down to the small Cape Meares Lighthouse, whose Fresnel lens was damaged by vandals in early 2010. This lighthouse was built in the 1890s and sits 200 feet above the waves. The building is open to visitors from April 1st to October 31st. The telescope outside the lighthouse building can be used to view the Steller’s sea lions at Three Arch Rocks. This is also a great whale watching site.

After taking in the views, follow the narrow fenced trail up the south side of the cape. There are views south to Short Beach, Maxwell Point, and Three Arch Rocks. The trail passes under a viewing platform next to the parking area. The first trail right leads to a grassy picnic area. The second trail right heads up to restrooms and then to the Octopus Tree. The candelabra shape of the six (not eight) trunks may have been formed by coastal windstorms; another theory posits that local Native Americans may have bent the limbs so they could cradle a platform for burials. There’s a spur from the tree that leads to a viewpoint. The trail, a section of the Oregon Coast Trail, continues up behind the Octopus Tree and then drops down along the high bluffs through Sitka spruce and salal with views of Short Beach. In deeper woods, the rooty path crosses a creek on a footbridge and then rises to give more views of Three Arch Rocks. After passing above a deep ravine, the trail levels and reaches the Three Capes Scenic Road. Return along the trail the way you came.


Regulations or Restrictions, etc.

  • Dogs on leash

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 100 Hikes: Oregon Coast by William L. Sullivan
  • Trips & Trails: Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • Exploring the Oregon Coast Trail by Connie Soper
  • 25 Hikes on Oregon's Tillamook Coast by Adam Sawyer
  • 120 Hikes on the Oregon Coast by Bonnie Henderson
  • Day Hiking: Oregon Coast by Bonnie Henderson
  • Best Easy Day Hikes: Oregon's North Coast by Lizann Dunegan
  • Hiking the Oregon Coast by Lizann Dunegan
  • Hiking Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • PDX Hiking 365 by Matt Reeder
  • 50 Hiking Trails: Portland & Northwest Oregon by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • A Walking Guide to Oregon's Ancient Forests by Wendell Wood
  • Hike America: Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • 50 Hikes in Oregon by David L. Anderson
  • Oregon Coast Camping & Hiking by Tom Stienstra & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Oregon Beaches: A Traveler's Companion by John Shewey
  • Oregon's Best Coastal Beaches by Dick Trout
  • Oregon Coast Hikes by Paul M. Williams
  • The Oregon Coast Trail Guide by Jon Kenneke (eBook)
  • Oregon Coast Trail: Hiking Inn to Inn by Jack D. Remington
  • Fire, Faults, and Floods: A Road & Trail Guide Exploring the Origins of the Columbia River Basin by Marge & Ted Mueller
  • Canine Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • The Dog Lover's Companion to Oregon by Val Mallinson
  • Oregon State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide by Jan Bannan

More Links


Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

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